Sarah Balch for InStyle.com
Sharon Clott Kanter
Dec 16, 2014 @ 3:45 pm

‘Tis the season of Oscar bait. The latest movie garnering big buzz is Selma, the story about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s crusade for equal voting rights in Selma, Alabama. The film has already received Best Picture nods from both the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards for the unique way it captures the civil rights movement of the mid-60s while also touching on the race disparities that still plague this nation today (most notably witnessed in recent protests across New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston).

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When Selma's star, Tessa Thompson, stopped by InStyle’s offices a few weeks before the movie premiered, she told us she knew she had just partaken in something special. Brad Pitt and Oprah Winfrey produced the film (Winfrey also stars in it), and the director, Ava DuVernay, inspired everyone on set, Thompson says. “She felt so passionate about the cast,” she shares. “She made it feel like we were making a little movie. But then we’d go to film a scene and there would be 500 extras on a very historical bridge, and I’d think to myself, ‘Are we civil rights leaders or action heroes?’”

Sarah Balch for InStyle.com

But most inspiring for Thompson to watch was Winfrey taking DuVernay “under her wing,” she says. “Oprah picked up the phone and got people to rally behind the project and support this up-and-coming director. Oprah is definitely someone who really wants to shepherd new talent. It’s just really important that women in the business help each other. That’s something that I think doesn’t happen nearly enough.”

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Thompson also appreciated observing Oprah, The Actress. “She got a per diem like the rest of us in a manila envelope and she just geeked out because she got to take off her producing hat and be 'Oprah the actress' for a day,” says Thompson. “But she was definitely still Oprah. You’ll be talking to her casually, and then she’ll say something so soundbite-able. And you can’t help thinking, ‘She’s Oprah-ing me right now!”

Overall, Thompson insists Selma is not to be missed. You can check it out in limited theaters starting December 25 and everywhere January 9, or watch a preview of the movie below.

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